Media release: Taskforce Integrity stamps out welfare system abuse
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
More than $13 million in welfare payments have been recovered and about 650 matters referred for criminal prosecution under a joint Services Australia and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Taskforce that detects and disrupts criminal activity within the welfare system.
Taskforce Integrity focuses on criminal networks and individuals that steal identities to hijack customer payments and also identifies welfare recipients with large amounts of unexplained wealth. The misuse of identity information for fraud and other criminal purposes causes substantial harm to Services Australia’s customers and the economy each year.
The taskforce has identified approximately 350 victims through its operations and investigations and Services Australia has offered support to those affected.
In the recent Operation BLACKSTONE, an offender used stolen identities to create several fraudulent myGov accounts and redirected $18,000 in welfare payments into bank accounts he controlled. Services Australia staff identified the suspicious activity and led the investigation, which ultimately resulted in an arrest.
Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said the Australian Government initiative was a great example of agencies working together to combat fraud. Services Australia continues to build its relationships across government and non-government agencies, as well as international entities, to maintain the integrity of the system of social supports and deal with those who seek to abuse that system.
‘We have seen many successful operations this year, uncovering fraud in family day care payments, pandemic relief payments, disaster recovery payments and the more routine range of welfare payments,’ Minister Robert said.
‘Services Australia has provided an essential safety net for millions of Australians this year, which is why we are so intent on stamping out this kind of opportunistic fraud - it’s an insult to those who are doing it tough and often targets our most vulnerable.’
Services Australia has specialised teams that are highly skilled in detecting and investigating fraudulent activity and we work closely with other Commonwealth agencies to respond quickly to fraud risk.
Minister Robert confirmed Services Australia criminal investigations, incorporating Taskforce Integrity activity, resulted in the referral of over 450 matters to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions last financial year and 196 to the end of November this financial year.
Minister Robert welcomed collaboration with bodies like the Australian Taxation Office’s Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce and AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance.
‘The agency’s contribution to the Commonwealth’s multi-agency taskforce Operation ASHIBA has disrupted and dismantled organised and systemic criminal syndicates,’ Minister Robert said.
‘The recent joint ‘Operation Iris-Ayton’ uncovered sophisticated fraud in family day care, while ‘Operation Persei’ recently led to charges for a couple defrauding both the child care and National Disability Insurance Schemes.
‘Australians want to be assured the support and assistance available through Services Australia is going to those that need and warrant it – not to unscrupulous criminals.
‘Despite the incredible demands placed on the agency in delivering support to those who need it most this year, I’m very pleased to see the integrity of these payments maintained through this dedicated work.’
Australians worried about identity theft can call or email the Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk for information, help and advice on 1800 941 126 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.